TRUMBULL -- Elizabeth Foley and Calyn Carbone met in first grade.

Through the usual turmoil of attending elementary (Booth Hill) and middle school (Hillcrest), the pair grew into self-described best friends and accomplished athletes.

Foley in soccer and Carbone in cross country were important pieces on their respective Trumbull High teams. Foley had played defense since freshman year. Carbone was first team All-FCIAC in her sophomore year (2019).

But first Carbone then Foley saw their junior seasons shut down by ACL injuries.

“I honestly thought I had rolled my ankle or something,” Carbone said of that practice day with the Trumbull girls’ basketball team on Feb. 24, 2019. “I thought I’d be back out on the court that day. My coaches were concerned, and I went to the doctor and found I had a torn ACL. I was in disbelief at first. My knee felt normal. It hurt a little bit, but it didn’t swell up a lot.”

Foley joined her on the sideline 3 months later playing for a club team at a soccer showcase in New Jersey.

“I was playing outside defense and tried to kick the ball as it was going out of bounds and this girl came from the back and I just landed wrong,” Foley said. “I heard a pop and I guess that is a sign you’ve hurt your ACL. I could walk so I thought it was fine. I didn’t think much of it at the time.

Foley reached out.

She is my best friend. I felt so bad for her. I never thought it would happen to me,” Foley said. “Calyn was able to help me through it. After I went for an X-Ray then an MRI, they told me it would be a long recovery. There is always the option of non-surgical, but if I wanted to return to playing soccer it was the only option.”

Carbone said: “We did physical therapy (PT) together. She had torn her ACL and I was in the middle of PT for mine. Having Elizabeth with me was great because we could motivate each other. We were each trying to get back to the same place. Over the summer we would go to the high school track.”

Dr. Jo Hannafin handled both surgeries at the Hospital for Special Surgery (Stamford).

“I was devastated when it set in that I was going to have surgery on my knee and that I was going to miss my outdoor track and cross country seasons. Then I really got to know Doctor Hannafin and that she really cared about my goals,” Carbone said of Hannafin, a three-time gold medalist at the U.S. National Rowing Championships.

Foley said: “When I first knew it was my ACL, it was heartbreaking. Everyone knows how long the recovery process is. I tore my left ACL, my right was always my dominant foot. Doctor Hannifan explained everything to me and what I would be facing. They are pretty equal now.”

Hannifan said: “Elizabeth and Calyn are both bright, mature and remarkable young women who handled their injuries by working hard to return to their sports. Elizabeth injured her knee playing soccer, which she plays year-round. She was able to return to practice and non-contact drills at 7 months and full return at 10 months. Calyn decided to focus on her running seasons rather than returning as the running sports were more important to her.”

Carbone said: “For runners, surgery isn’t always a necessary thing because you aren’t constantly cutting and pivoting. Dr. Hannafin said that that if I wanted to have the same quality of life (going forward) and do all the things I may want to do that surgery was the best option. She understood that I wanted to get back to playing sports quickly. I thought it was cool how she went through sports the same way.”

Carbone helped Trumbull win the FCIAC East Region title placing fourth with a time of 15:49.

Foley and the Eagles will play this week in the FCIAC divisional semifinals.

They will return to compete on the track team.

“I do sprints, 100, 200, 400,” Foley said. “Calyn is more of a long-distance person. I try running with her sometimes, but she is just too fast at those distances.” Carbone has qualified for FCIACs in both the 1- and 2-mile events and for states in the 2-mile run.

ADVICE ON ACL

Hannifan counseled: “It is important for the athlete to see progression from being an injured athlete to a recovering athlete to a fully competitive athlete. The process is slow but understanding the process and the goals of recovery seems to help a lot.”

Foley and Carbone agree.

Foley said: “Stay diligent in your rehab and work hard to get back. It is not easy but be patient.” Carbone added: “Stay positive. If you don’t do all the things that your physical therapist and surgeon is asking of you, (getting better) will be slower. You must listen to your body and make sure you are doing all the extra work.”

WHAT WAS REHAB LIKE

“It was frustrating at first,” Carbone said. “All I could focus on was getting my full range of motion back. Even when I could start to run again, it was one minute, and then it was two minutes the next day. It was a slow progression back up to where I wanted to be.

Foley said: “The rehab was about 9 months. In the beginning it was hard because it started the day after surgery. Calyn and I went to physical training (PT) a couple times a week. I couldn’t run or put weight on it, but once I got back to running, I saw the progress.”

BOTH GIRLS GRATEFUL

“I’d say I was a 9 (choosing 1-10) on where I was before the injury,” Foley said. “Actually, I’m in much better shape. I’m stronger and faster than I was because I never lifted weights like I did in PT. I have a new perspective about keeping up with my training.”

Carbone said: “I’m grateful for the injury in a way. I was able to learn a lot about strengthening different parts of my body. Also, with the quarantine in the spring gave me the time to get back into training and build myself up for the season.”

COLLEGES

“With both the injury and with COVID, I’ve had to take a little bit more time and think about what I want to do,” Carbone said. “I do want to run in college, whether that is club or on a team.”

Foley already had an idea what school she wanted to attend.

“I was in touch with a few coaches (when she was hurt as a sophomore), including Lacey Largeteau at Skidmore (N.Y.) College,” Foley said. “I wasn’t ready to commit then. Getting injured and missing my junior year probably wasn’t the best time because of recruiting.

“I emailed her (Largeteau) a video of a scrimmage against a team with older players when we were first allowed to play. She told me she liked what she saw, and we went from there. It all worked out in the end and I committed. It is such a great school for academics with tons of majors to choose from which is good because I don’t know exactly what field (possibly physical therapy) that I want to go into. I liked the location, the coaches.”

COACH SPEAK

Foley’s soccer coach Rich Sutherland said: “Liz was sorely missed last year in the heart of our defense and she has come back in this year stronger than ever after a year out. Highly dependable at the back, she does an excellent job 'doing the dirty work' and stopping the opposition's attacks. She is a strong technical player, but her time out has allowed her to work on her body strength and she has come back now as a more accomplished player with that additional strength she has gained.”

Jim McCaffrey knew Carbone was going to be a special runner.

“Calyn was built to be a cross country runner. Her time at Trumbull has been one of great success for the team, but one that has had ups and downs for her,” McCaffrey said. “During her freshman year she worked hard to earn a top 8 spot on a talented team that included 3 freshman standouts.

“Calyn used this effort from her freshman year to catapult her into a sophomore season that had her as a top 30 performing runner in the state. She was in position to have another breakout season on what was arguably the best and most talented Trumbull girls XC team in school history.”

Losing Carbone for her junior season was tough on a variety of levels.

“I hurt for her because it was a recruiting year that should have been full of goal-oriented runs,” McCaffrey said. “Instead, she had to take on a leadership and arguably became the glue that held some very big personalities together. One of her many nicknames became Coach Carbone. She came to every race, every practice and worked to rehab her knee. At races she would wear the headset opposite me, and we would position ourselves throughout the course passing on relevant information to our runners.”

McCaffrey was so anxious to see her out on the course again.

“Calyn now holds a top 10 THS course record and she has set a PR at the 5K,” McCaffrey said. “Despite knee surgery, she has seen tremendous success and earned her mark in the history books of THSGXC. We need more Calyn Carbones.”

william.bloxsom@hearstmediact.com Twitter: @blox354